The Philippines will close its borders to flights from the United Kingdom (UK) over fears of a new and more infectious strain of the coronavirus, Malacañang said on Wednesday.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the suspension of flights from midnight of Dec. 24 until December 31.

“All passengers who have been in the UK within fourteen (14) days immediately preceding arrival to the Philippines, including those merely in transit, are also temporarily restricted from entering the country for the same period,” Roque said in a message to reporters.

“On the other hand, passengers already in transit from the UK and all those who have been to the UK within 14 days immediately preceding arrival to the Philippines, who arrive before 12:01AM of Dec. 24, 2020, shall not be subject to entry restriction but they would be required to undergo stricter quarantine and testing protocols,” he added.

Roque said protocols include a 14-day quarantine at the Athlete’s Village in New Clark City and a negative RT-PCR test result.

Meanwhile, outbound travel to the UK will be subject to the existing exit protocols of the Philippines and the UK.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the new strain of SARS-CoV-2 was up to 70 percent more infectious. It caused European countries to tighten their Covid-19 restrictions as the holiday season looms. John Ezekiel J. Hirro